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Vijay Hazare's statue to be installed in Baroda
Haresh Pandya in Rajkot | March 23, 2007 10:28 IST
Few Indian cricketers have had the honour of their statues being installed in their hometown. This is quite baffling, because in many Indian towns and cities you come across statues of lesser-known people, mostly politicians.
By the same token, civic authorities name streets and roads after persons hardly known.
In Rajkot, a small road is named after its illustrious son Amar Singh, India's first genuine, world-class all-rounder, simply because he was living nearby.
Amar, who formed a lethal fast bowling pair with Mohammad Nissar and scored India's first fifty in the country's maiden Test at Lord's in 1932, died of pneumonia after he had blown only 29 candles on his last birthday cake.
But he achieved so much during his brief life and extremely short Test career that he was hailed a truly great cricketer even by the celebrated late English journalist Sir Neville Cardus, who compared his pace bowling with that of former England bowling legend Harold Larwood.
Strangely, the only cricket ground in the city, which belongs to the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), is named after the late Madhavrao Scindia and not Amar Singh, despite the fact that the former had nothing whatsoever to do with Gujarat, let alone Rajkot.
The ground got Scindia's name in the early 2000s simply because of the Congress regime in the RMC at the time. It was earlier known as Rajkot Municipal Corporation Cricket Ground (RMCCG), but the moment the Congress came to power in the RMC after 25 years, the party bigwigs decided name the ground after someone and came up with Scindia's name as he had passed away recently.
One can understand the motives of politicians in such matters. However, when informed about the Rajkot cricket ground being renamed after the Congress heavyweight who was also a former BCCI president, Niranjan Shah, then only secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, called up Jyotiraditya Scindia and very excitedly told him in the presence of this correspondent that the Rajkot ground had been given the name of his late father. The point is Shah should have been the first to recommend Amar Singh's name for the Rajkot cricket ground!
Even Jamnagar, which has produced some legendary cricketers, including K S Ranjitsinhji and K S Duleepsinhji, installed a life-size statue of its very own Vinoo Mankad, who is seen in bowling action, only a couple of years ago. Surprisingly, there are no statues of Ranji or Duleep in Jamnagar.
Instead, two gates of the Ajitsinhji Cricket Ground are named after this renowned cricketing uncle-nephew pair. Of course, there is a statue of Ranji at the beautiful Lakhota lake in Jamnagar. But it is a statue of Ranji the ruler and not Ranji the cricketer.
There is a statue of India's first Test captain Col. C K Nayudu in Indore. A huge bat carved out of a stone was also installed in the same Madhya Pradesh town to mark India's hat-trick of Test series wins under Ajit Wadekar in the early 1970s.
But when the same seemingly unconquerable team lost 3-0 to England in what is now known as the Summer of 42 (because India was bowled out for 42 in a Test innings at Lord's in that three-match series in England in 1974), vandals, guised as cricket lovers, demolished it to show their anger.
Their counterparts in Mumbai had stoned Wadekar's home. A completely disillusioned Wadekar called it a day in a huff when he was still good enough to last about three to five years in the heavyweight division of cricket.
Now, a statue of Vijay Hazare is coming up in Baroda, three years after his death. Authorities of Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) and Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) have agreed to install a statue of the former Indian batsman and captain. City mayor Sunil Solanki is particularly keen to have it installed as soon as possible.
Plans and talk of installing Hazare's statue would never have taken place but for local journalist A D Vyas' timely suggestion during the inauguration ceremony of a cricket exhibition, called 'Baroda Still Batting 1898-2007' at the Maharaja Fatesingh Museum in Lukshmi Vilas Palace Estate on March 11.
It was also Hazare's birthday and Vyas did not miss the opportunity to tell the mayor, who was sitting on the dais, to do something to commemorate the great player's memory in Baroda.
"It's a pity that a number of roads and streets in Baroda are named after those who not too many know today; certainly not outside this city. But there is no road, no street named after Hazare, who played a key role in placing Baroda on the international map. I am sure it would be an ideal tribute to Hazare if his statue is installed in Baroda. The Gujarat government should think about this because Hazare was not just Baroda's but of the entire state," said Vyas in his speech.
When Vyas finished, Solanki took the microphone and said: "Send me a proposal and I will ensure that a statue of Hazare is installed in Baroda."
Minutes later, BCA president Chirayu Amin announced: "If the VMC is ready to install Hazare's statue, we will bear the entire expense."
A few days later, after healthy discussions between the BCA and VMC authorities, a decision was finally taken to install a life-size statue in the heart of Baroda.
Considering his great and vast contribution to the willow game, Hazare fully deserves this honour.
It is high time more outstanding Indian cricketers are honoured similarly.
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